A couple days ago, TBD’s Kevin Robillard outlined the ways in which Vince Gray‘s coalition resembles the tea party: Many of his supporters are destabilized by a shaky economy, repelled by a sometimes high-handed incumbent, and feel that their city/country is being taken over by people who are not like them. To add to Robillard’s analysis, Gray is the one campaigning on a platform of fiscal conservatism, while Mayor Adrian Fenty is the one who’s been forced to impose a host of taxes and fees on businesses to patch holes in the budget. And Dave Weigel is counting down the days before conservative hacks start using a Fenty loss to foreshadow a similar fate for Obama in 2012.
The actual tea party backers, however, see the race differently. On Sunday, Americans for Tax Reform—an anchor of the right-wing establishment that pushed for lower taxes before anybody had heard of Glenn Beck—took a hatchet to Gray, calling him “your typical big city politician,” beholden to unions, who’ll stop school reform in its tracks. What few donations are out there also fall to Fenty: A cursory scan of tea party-affiliated names through D.C.’s campaign finance turns up a $250 check from Freedomworks board member James H. Burnley IV. Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist has donated only once in a D.C. race, to at-large councilmember David Catania in 2002.
Of course, finding out who’s more tea party-esque is a pretty pointless exercise; The District doesn’t need national analogies to have its own compelling narratives. Besides, both the tea party uprising and the Gray groundswell reflect much longer-standing patterns in American politics, with populist firebrands overcoming leaders forced to make painful cuts in bad economies.
If you want to ask the tea partyers themselves, though, Sunday’s your last chance.